Posts Tagged ‘depth’

Certainly Not Certain

July 29th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler wants you to think of someone who has acknowledged expertise. Don’t select an ‘expert’ for there are ‘experts’ everywhere; expertise is somewhat thinner on the ground. For every person with expertise, there are many others who profess to be experts. Expertise doesn’t involve doing the extraordinary – it’s about doing the ordinary competently, confidently, convincingly and consistently. Those with expertise, that is, those who have made a sustained learning effort, can recognise expertise in others for it presents as another recognisable pattern. You may not be able to explain the pattern adequately – they are just good at what they do – but you do know it when you see it.

‘Competently, confidently, convincingly and consistently’ leaves out the concept of certainty. Those with expertise must be certain in what they’re doing; after all, they have done it many times before. Surely, then, a ‘certain’ expert (c.f. an uncertain novice) would be more persuasive in communicating the ways to behave. They know because they do so well; they do so well because they know.

However, the relationship between expertise, certainty and persuasion seems more surprising. When those perceived as lacking expertise appear more certain, they are seen as more persuasive. Conversely, when those perceived as having expertise appear less certain, they are seen as more persuasive. Apparently, and sadly, if you don’t really know what you’re talking about, speak with great conviction in order to persuade others; why do politicians spring to mind as an appropriate example? Alexander Pope suggested that ‘some people will never learn anything because they understand everything too soon’. An unshakeable belief in their own message can override the shaky foundation on which it is built.

The ‘uncertain expert’ received support from George Santayana who said that ‘the wisest mind has something yet to learn’. Can you imagine how these issues relate to your learning journey and its many features? Can you unravel and re-connect elements such as certainty, effort, (over)confidence, motivation, curiosity and perseverance?

Certainty should never be an outcome of experiential learning.  Certainty can never be a pre-condition for continued (lifelong) learning.  Nobody knows everything in a given area or specific skill, even though this is exactly what some may profess.  Everybody does know something of potential value to your own learning journey – keep your ears, eyes and minds open along the way.  Remember, however, others are describing what they do (or what they think they are doing) and description is not explanation.  Explanations are constructed from your own efforts yet, as a product of your cumulative experience, your own explanations often remain hidden from you (and are thus even further away from others).

As you know, though, there is an exception to every rule. To end this post, watch this short video; it encapsulates great expertise, total certainty and compelling persuasiveness:

Is this post persuasive? ‘tis nobler is certainly not certain – if it is, that must mean ‘tis nobler is an [complete this sentence using a noun that begins with the letter ‘E’]. 🙂

Places And The Moon

July 27th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

For a start, there’s the Sea of Tranquillity, the site for the first Moon landing.  What’s that?  Read the title of this post carefully.  It’s ‘and’, not ‘on’. Is there a link between places AND the Moon?

The first, um, place to start is with some recent research that reinforces the value of pattern recognition derived from experience.  When people were asked to make quick judgments on the safety of (photographs of) unfamiliar neighbourhoods, their ‘gut feelings’ were accurate.  Of course, this has little to do with ‘the gut’, for the explanation can be found between the ears.  Neither should you dismiss this capability as just ‘a feeling’ or intuition, for the effort invested to produce these snap judgments is substantial.

This research complements many other studies that have shown the emergence of pattern recognition as a function of increasing experience.  Learners move from trying to cope with all the little bits through to holistic assessments of more global patterns.  Experienced learners just ‘know’ things, not because they get better at guessing but because they can identify, understand and act on the patterns they perceive.

That’s the relevance of places, now for the Moon; enjoy this fabulous song by The Waterboys and pay particular attention to the lyrics:

I had flashes.”  Novice learners deal with the bits they encounter.  “But you saw the plan.”  Experienced learners combine (or chunk) these bits and operate on the basis of patterns, not bits.

I saw the crescent.”  Novice learners deal with some, but not all, of the bits they encounter.  “You saw the whole of the Moon.”  Experienced learners incorporate all of the bits into the one pattern.

I saw the rain dirty valley.”  Novice learners deal with the bits literally and independently.  “You saw Brigadoon.”  Experienced learners are able to extract meaning from patterns (in part because they’re not overwhelmed by juggling the many bits) and ‘see’ not just the big picture but beyond it as well.

Can you imagine the benefits to precision, fluency, workload and decision making when you see the whole of the Moon and not just the crescent?  Commitment to a sustained learning journey will take you many places and, eventually, take you to the (whole of the) Moon.

Regretful, Rosy Or Real?

July 25th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In ‘Take Them Off’, ‘tis nobler noted that people are generally inaccurate in their assessments of their own behaviour and that these assessments are positively skewed:

Self monitoring and self assessment are core elements of experiential learning and behavioural change.  The ongoing question concerns the person being monitored and assessed.  Is it actually you, is it the ‘you’ you think others want to see or is it the ‘you’ that you’d prefer to be?  Wear clear lenses when monitoring and assessing your behaviour.

We do look at ourselves through rose-coloured glasses – as stronger, smarter, faster or more skilful than objective scrutiny would indicate.  And, as well our general behaviour, we recall many past decisions through the same glasses, one reason why we repeat past mistakes.  Other past decisions reverberate as reasons for continuing regret, something which can be offset through closure.

Both regrets and rosy recollections can be derived from an inaccurate perspective on past decisions – they are rarely as negative or positive as we subsequently recall for they are passing moments in a much longer journey.  You can and must learn from past decisions but you are not constrained to repeat them for their apparent rosiness or their ongoing source of regret.  There will be links and overlaps between current challenges and past decisions but there need not be any dependencies (which would be another variation of the Gambler’s Fallacy).

Would it be possible for Robbie Williams to replace ‘regrets’ with ‘rosiness’ in this song?  Could he have sung – ‘No rosiness, it doesn’t work, no rosiness, it only hurts’?

Rosiness and regret may be two sides of the same coin, the one that ties you to past decisions in ways that hamper the here and now.  How do you balance a longing for ‘the good old days’ (which could be as recent as the ‘great’ decision you made a few months ago) with the rueful conclusion that ‘things have never been as good as they are now’ (if only you were young enough to take advantage of them)?

We do think of past behaviour and previous decisions differently when we examine them from the present.  This examination needs one of the three Rs to be applied and you get to choose which one – regretful, rosy or real.


July 18th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

What should you be mindful of?  The usual answer is to be mindful of the moment.

Mindfulness is a concept that requires a unilateral focus on the immediate, the here and know, the moment.  It is a way to focus, to relax and to renew.  It underpins aspects of religion, meditation, therapy and ‘life coaching’.  The focus can be very narrow – breathing – or it can be very wide – the situation you’re confronting – but the emphasis is on devoting attention, your full attention, to everything.

As a learner, what should you be mindful of?  ‘tis nobler’s answer would be to be mindful of not being too mindful, except when being mindful recharges your learning journey.  What do you think the relationship between mindfulness and experiential learning is?

A single-minded focus on the immediate enables you to push away all of the other elements that comprise learning.  If you do so as a needed break from your learning, then that’s fantastic; if you do so because you believe this focus is necessary for learning, then that’s probably misplaced.

Narrowing your learning in time while expanding the amount of information you’re taking in can be counterproductive.  If you take everything in, moment by moment, how can you be mindful of the moments that are yet to arrive, the ‘future’ moments that you should be anticipating and preparing for?  If you take everything in, moment by moment, how can you be mindful of the reverberations of the moments that seem to have passed?

You can undoubtedly find things ‘in the moment’ but you can also be lost in the moment:

‘tis nobler thinks it’s wrong to conceive of the here and now as comprising all of the information you need to perform.  This conception suggests that the more mindful you are, the more successful you’ll be as a skilled performer.  Experiential learning adopts the opposite approach – the more your ‘here and now’ performance reflects the sum total of your entire learning journey, past, present and future, the more successful you’ll be.

What many consider to be thinking ‘on your feet’, another way to describe applied mindfulness, misrepresents this type of thinking for the better performers are thinking through their journey and applying the lessons learned; they are not just thinking about where they happen to be standing at any point in time.

Being mindful is about conscious control, conscious processing and conscious awareness; being experienced is about shifting from the conscious to the automatic.  The specific challenge may be in the here and now but its solution is created over a much longer timeframe.

‘tis nobler encourages you to practise mindfulness when you want to relax and recharge.  When you want to learn, ‘tis nobler encourages you to practise being mindful-less.

Vague? Precisely!

July 8th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

How do you translate this sentence?  To be more precise, take the sentence “How do you translate this sentence?” and translate it into English.

How did you go?  Did it take you long?  Did you make any mistakes?  Really, it couldn’t have been any easier given the absolute precision of instructions and the simplicity of the task.

Now, look at these four sentences and try to work out what they mean:

Comment traduisez-vous cette phrase?  Miten kääntää tämän lauseen?  Πώς μεταφράζεται αυτή η πρόταση?  इस वाक्य दूसरों के लिए अलग है?

Did you make any headway?  Did you recognise that the first sentence was written in French?  Doesn’t ‘comment’ mean ‘how’ in English as in ‘Comment allez-vous?’ – ‘How are you?’  And perhaps the French word ‘phrase’ has some overlap with the English word ‘phrase’.  Could the French ‘phrase’ be translated into English as ‘sentence’.  How, something, something, sentence, and then a question mark.  If you can see an emerging pattern, then the French sentence does indeed translate as ‘How do you translate this sentence?’

The second, third and fourth languages are Finnish, Greek and Hindi.  As they are all questions and if the pattern continues, they probably all translate as ‘How do you translate this sentence?’  And you’d be right – almost – as the Hindi sentence is a translation of ‘Is this sentence different to the others?’ 🙂

Even if you are monolingual, you are still an interpreter for precision and clarity are uncommon features of experiential learning and behavioural change.  You must make sense of the situation as it unfolds and perform effectively and efficiently in the circumstances – the demands being imposed on you are never fully defined, never just handed to you on a plate.  Translate, interpret, act.

And this is where there must a real change.  Teachers, trainers and instructors have traditionally thought that their job is to make things as easy as possible by providing their learners with the ‘safety’ of precise instructions and unambiguous advice.  In certain tasks, viz closed-loop skills, this remains the case.

But when you must learn by doing and not by doing what you’ve been told to do, the value of ‘the vague’ has received research support.  ‘Vague’ supports personal value-adding while ‘precise’ removes the personal contribution from the process.  ‘Vague’ may be more challenging and more daunting but the essence of your learning – your own experience – can’t be artificially ‘injected’ by an outsider.  Their role is to facilitate, not force.

‘tis nobler could tell you what (‘tis nobler thinks) this video – ‘Hat’ – is all about:

And you might simply adopt ‘tis nobler’s interpretation as your own, becoming a parrot that recites without understanding rather than a performer who demonstrates the value of experiences and reflection.  Vagueness encourages autonomous learning; you should learn with autonomy rather than learn as an automaton (for there is no real learning involved in mindlessly obeying instructions)!

In experiential learning, vague suggestions are the new precise instructions.  Vague?  Precisely!

Where’s The Zone?

June 20th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler is wondering whether you’ve ever experienced being ‘in the zone’.  If you have, directions would be appreciated.  Where exactly is this ‘zone’ that people keep talking about?  It appears to be everywhere and nowhere at the same time for you can be in it and then out of it in the blink of an eye.  It’s one of those strange places that you are unaware of entering, aware of while you hang around and always sorry when you apparently depart.

It must be a special place, an exclusive place, a highly sought after location.  You have to be invited but you have no idea what form this invitation takes.  Still, you are always excited to be there, for you can do no wrong while there.  Things just ‘click’ – being in this zone is error-free and empowering.  You never want to leave but you always have to go.

This ‘zone’ is a very special place indeed.  Everybody knows it, everybody aspires to it and everybody hopes that at this time, during this game or in this performance, they’ll enter the zone.  The zone is a special place.

But it doesn’t exist.

To be clear, there’s no supporting (empirical) evidence from a number of well-designed studies, although many will still attest to the zone’s existence.

If you flip a (fair) coin four times and it comes down ‘Heads’ on each occasion, is this ‘being in the zone’?  Are you an expert coin flipper or just an average coin tosser who’s on a ‘streak’?  The answer to all of these questions is, of course, no (although there is some evidence that it seems possible to ‘game’ coin tossing through extensive practice) for what is observed is improbable (relative to other outcomes) but not unknown.  It’s not a ‘streak’; rather it’s just one short-term version of a larger, 50/50 pattern.

Being ‘in the zone’ is the opposite of the gambler’s fallacy, in which a perceived dependence is established between independent events.  Rather than relying on non-existent dependencies between events, this video emphasises the value of effort to improve each event – if you watch to the end, you’ll realise that Sherwin Williams is not the name of the boxer 🙂

One way to avoid becoming unstoppable is to hope for the appearance of dependencies, for they will convince you that you can enter ‘the zone’ rather than invest and sustain the required effort. If you establish dependencies between independent events and then use them as an explanation for your performance, you might also be delegating responsibility for your performance to these dependencies, to being in the ‘zone’.  Are you using dependencies as both invalid explanations and poor excuses in your experiential learning and behavioural change efforts?

For Better Or For Worse?

June 10th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

If you somehow combine the two previous posts, you end up with a post that’s about simple choices.  This is that post, except I might delay writing it for a while.  I should write it now to conform to the posting schedule but I might choose to do something else.  Should I delay implementing my default (scheduled) option?

What is the relationship between simple choices and procrastination?  The relationship is summarised in the title of this post – for better or worse.

And it all depends on the nature of the default option when confronting a choice.

Simple choices often have a standard, popular, normative or default option, for it is the obvious that makes the choice simple.  If the default dominates, choosing is not complicated for the choice, in a sense, has already been made.  This is usually helpful for life is too short to be spent mulling over simple, perhaps irrelevant (to your life) choices.  Of course, the default may not always be the best option (for you or others) – can you imagine the inertia this introduces into attempts at behavioural change?

When choices are delayed, the evidence indicates that people shift from the default and so the effect of procrastination reflects the quality of the default.  If the default option is objectively better, the eventual choice will be worse; conversely, the eventual choice will be better when the default is objectively worse.

And so everything depends on your assessment and/or acceptance of the default.  Serendipitously, the name of this band is ‘Default’ but it’s the title of the song that is the point:

Are you wasting your time when you delay a choice?  Only you can answer that and your answer should reflect much more than your subjective view of your default options.  There are times when simple choices are hardly simple and there are times when easy choices should be made much harder.  Naturally, there are also times when simple choices are simple, easy and correct; at these times, delay can have a real opportunity cost.

When should you choose default and when should you choose delay?  Perhaps the rule of thumb for defaults and delays is ‘for better or for worse’!  And ‘for better or for worse’ is not really a choice, it is more likely to be a decision.  Decide to find your own way – for better.

Take Them Off

June 1st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In ‘Step Outside’, ‘tis nobler asked:

How do I gain insights into my own behaviour by gaining insights into the way you see me?

And then noted:

The short and incorrect answer is to put yourself in the other’s shoes.  The starting point for this leap into different footwear is the way you see yourself; you take your view of yourself and transplant it onto them.  This is where the inaccuracies emerge for research has shown that there is little or no association between my assessment of your view and your view itself.  I don’t fit into your shoes!

Don’t just put yourself in their shoes for this act simply changes your shoes.  Step outside yourself before stepping into their shoes and your understanding of how they see you will be a better fit.

But, and it’s a very important ‘but’, this is much easier said than done for there is a lot of evidence that supports the view that we are generally inaccurate in our assessments of our own behaviour and that such assessments are positively skewed.  Wrong and too rosy is a difficult combination to overcome, in part because being accurate and honest can be confronting.

‘Know Thyself’ may be one of the more common philosophical principles and yet may be the one that is most difficult to achieve.  You might find it difficult to know others for what they do tells you more about the situation than it does about who they are.

And you will always find it difficult to know your own behaviour if you persist in wearing rose coloured glasses.  As Kelly Rowland sings:

Everything is beautiful when you’re looking through rose coloured glasses,

Everything seems amazing when you see the view through rose coloured glasses,

Take them off.

Self monitoring and self assessment are core elements of experiential learning and behavioural change.  The ongoing question concerns the person being monitored and assessed.  Is it actually you, is it the ‘you’ you think others want to see or is it the ‘you’ that you’d prefer to be?  Wear clear lenses when monitoring and assessing your behaviour.  If the lenses have a rosy tint, there’s just one thing you must do.

Take them off.

Metaphorically Speaking

May 30th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler is feeling descriptive today:

Police are looking for a male described as being between 18 and 29 years of age, approximately 180cms tall, with a slight build and last seen wearing a black shirt, blue jeans and runners. He is known to be as cunning as a fox, with the demeanour of someone who has found 20 cents after losing $20.  He should not be approached unless you are backed into a corner and have nowhere to go but up.

Some descriptions are close to useless, some use comparisons that add depth and colour while the reviews for others are mixed, speaking metaphorically:

It is easy to describe skilled performance for the obvious elements are known and you just need to list them.  You can describe the way Federer serves, the way Vettel drives or the way Clapton plays the guitar.  Describing is easy, so, so much easier than doing and yet describing and doing are often seen as the same thing.  If you can describe, does this mean that you can also do?

Descriptions sit on the surface of the ‘What World’, outlining what is done at a very general level.  Being readily available but superficial, descriptions don’t detail everything that is performed for you need to explore the ‘How World’ and the ‘Why World’ to get this information.  All of these things come together to form understanding and, combined with direct, effortful experience, produce competence and expertise.

Descriptions may be a starting point but they never take you very far.  But their influence is not necessarily limited as the way you describe something (or the way others describe it to you) can guide your entire effort (or lack thereof).  For (doing) better or for (doing) worse, metaphors are a double-edged sword that could tip the balance either way!

Is learning to drive like falling off a log?  Is umpiring a football game like stealing candy from a baby?  Conversely, is learning to drive like trying to nail jelly to the wall?  Is umpiring a football game like trying to herd cats?

Metaphors are pervasive and influential, yet another example of the framing process.  How do you behave under the influence of descriptions?  Can you learn something through metaphors or do metaphors just affect your learning?

‘Dressed’ For Success

May 25th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In experiential learning and behavioural change, how do you ‘dress’ for success?  The first clue ‘tis nobler can provide is that the answer to this question has nothing to do with clothes.

The second clue can be found in these Sinead O’Connor lyrics (and the title of the song):

Everyone can see what’s going on

They laugh because they know they’re untouchable

Not because what I said was wrong

Whatever it might bring

I will live with my own policies

I will sleep with a clear conscience

I will sleep in peace

The third clue can be found in some recent research that demonstrates a link between perception and perceptions or how, rightly or wrongly, assessments of ability are affected by appearance.  In assessments of identical (and thus ‘mimed’) performances, musicians who were dressed less appropriately were judged more harshly than their more appropriately attired counterparts – there was a link between apparel and perceived ability.

The fourth clue relates to the catchcry for this site.  It is ‘Effort is essential’ rather than ‘Apparel activates ability’.

In many experiential learning and behavioural change contexts, appearance appears to take precedence over substance.  It is as though looking the part is more important than playing the part, perhaps because playing the part takes more sustained effort than the purchase of the costume.  Appearances can be bought but substance must be earned.

And, if you combine these clues, you realise that you can never ‘dress’ for success; you can, however. ‘dress’ to pretend you’re successful.  Isn’t it better to be tired after effortful practice than be attired as a means of avoiding the effort?


Preferably Reversible, Actually Not

May 20th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Can you remember the post (Day Tripper) that referred to figure skaters?  Among other things, it noted:

With equivalent amounts of experience, the better skaters in the group spent almost 50% more time practising more difficult manoeuvres rather than just doing the simpler things over and over again.  It all looked like practice, the quantity of experience was similar but there were significant differences in the quality of that experience…….If you are striving to succeed in anything, you must succeed in continuing to strive.

This is another reinforcement of the central point in Monday’s post that dismissed ‘natural ability’ for experiential learning is ‘never natural, it’s always effortful’.  And yet the temptation to find an easy way out is ever-present; it seems more comforting to ascribe our slow(er) progress to a lack of natural ability than to a lack of effort.  We can, and should act naturally:

But this does not mean that acting naturally can be reversed.  Still, we prefer to believe that acting naturally is reversible – we can naturally act, despite knowing that sustained, engaged effort is needed.  The contrast between preference and requirement was clearly shown in recent research that demonstrated a clear preference for endorsing natural talent.  Professional musicians were asked to assess recorded performances by two musicians, one of whom was described as having natural talent while the other had learned through hard work.  Their ‘methods’ were the only difference – the musical samples were, in fact, identical.

Despite professing the value of hard work, this group preferred the music produced by the naturally gifted ‘player’.  They could not conclude this on the basic of the music itself (which was identical, even though most could not discern this) but on the journey undertaken to produce it.  We cling to a preference for the ‘special’, for the ‘out of the ordinary’, for the ‘extraordinary’; does this mean that our strongest preference may be to leave ourselves an apparently acceptable explanation for our own relative performance?

It is important to act naturally; it is more important to realise that any skilled action does not come naturally.  Naturally, this is difficult to accept for we would always prefer to think that effort is not required.  Effort is essential.

Deliberately Incidental

May 18th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

The previous post dismissed the concept of natural ability as a predictor of experiential learning success and emphasised the central role of effortful practice, sometimes called deliberate practice.  The connection(s) between skill, practice and learning must be of sufficient and sustained strength; if not, your role reduces to that of passenger, someone along for the ride while others take responsibility and make the effort.

But there are passengers and then there are ‘passengers’.  There aren’t, however, learning opportunities and ‘learning opportunities’, for everything presents as a real learning opportunity (and so you should never think that all learning has to be deliberate for it can also be incidental.  As a deliberate learning strategy, it can also be deliberately incidental).  Evidence indicates that a combination of passive ‘passenger’ and learning opportunity can still be beneficial.

The value of expanding direct learning with vicarious experiences has been discussed previously by ‘tis nobler (here and here), although the antagonism between vicarious experience and self control has also been noted (here).  Both effectiveness and efficiency will benefit when greater effort is invested in direct learning; similarly, there will be further (perhaps smaller) benefits when direct learning is complemented by participation in vicarious experiences (again, perhaps, proportional to the level of engagement).  Experiential learning is ‘moreish’ – more effort, more engagement, more direct and indirect experiences all combine to generate more effective and efficient learning.  Can ‘lessish’ also be ‘moreish’ for learning?

It may be that direct and vicarious can be reinforced even more by passive, incidental experience (although the evidence is limited to the type of task studied at this stage).  It makes sense, though, that you can still learn when you’re in less obvious learning situations, you can still learn when you are a passive ‘passenger’.  In these circumstances, you may be unaware of your learning but you are still soaking up the ‘lessons’ the real world is presenting:

Experiential learning can happen in every place and at any time.  Effectiveness and efficiency vary as a function of direct, vicarious and passive experience but all three types can add value.  You can learn while you do, you can learn from what others have done and you can still learn when you don’t think you’re doing anything.

There is no one way and there is no right way.  There is just your way.  Find it.  Directly and incidentally, this is a good thing on which to deliberate!


What Am I Saying?

May 11th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It is important to think of experiential learning and behavioural change as bottomless – you can never delve too deeply for learning is lifelong and change constantly presents new challenges.  Take a concept like self control that can be ‘dismissed’ superficially and semantically.  After all, it is just controlling yourself!  ‘tis nobler has unpacked self-control in various posts:

“There is an inverse relationship between self control and procrastination – the more you exert self control, the less of a procrastinator you’ll be.  It can also be possible to ‘import’ self control from other aspects of your life and apply it to your learning journey; if it exists somewhere, you can use it here”.

And then ‘tis nobler wrote, “There is evidence that indicates that high discount rates – the ‘now, now, now’ phenomenon – are associated with reduced self control.  Immediate gratification is seen as much more valuable than something more valuable for which you must wait”.  It might help maintain self control by recognising that “Perhaps this evidence indicates that it can also be good to go the other way, exaggerating the cost of temptations in order to maintain self control and (longer term) goal adherence”.

And it is possible to learn self control – “And the point of this post is that there is evidence to indicate that there is a practice effect for self-control.  Implementing self control behaviours, rather than just coping through willpower or suppressing the ‘objects of your desires’, does lead to more effective self control”.

And now we turn to some research that emphasises the role of your inner voice.  Telling yourself what or what not to do is a popular cultural theme and it seems that it can be successful.  The evidence is indirect; suppressing your inner voice by requiring other verbal tasks while completing a primary task in which impulse control is important leads to more impulsive behaviour than when the secondary task is non-verbal.  Your inner voice is lost in the din, and impulsiveness  increases.

Think of the (inner) verbal interference you may experience during experiential learning and behavioural change – I’m not sure I can do this, just a little (lapse) won’t hurt, how is this going to turn out? – and it is little wonder that your inner voice struggles to keep you heading in the right direction for it is drowned out by doubts and short-term decisions.

But your inner voice usually does know the real answers and, like your oldest friend, just trust the voice within:

In self control, it helps to silence the noise in your head so that you can hear what your inner voice is saying.  This is easier said than done but, as noted above, there is a practice effect in self control; try repeating this mantra:

What am I saying?  What am I saying?  What am I saying?  What am I saying?

Outside The Chunks

May 6th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Moving from novice to experienced status involves moving from bits to chunks, from pieces to patterns.  It’s incorrect to think that you just get faster at handling the bits and pieces for it is the ways in which you compile larger, more sophisticated patterns from all of the bits that is a true sign of experiential learning.  Whether you think of ‘bigger picture’, ‘mental model’, ‘forest not trees’, ‘holistic assessments’ or ‘internalised representations’, the process is the same.  As a direct consequence of experience, your way of seeing the world around you changes.

And other things change as well.  You move from serial (from bit to bit to bit) to parallel (multitasking) processing of information, you move from dealing with objects to dealing with meaning and you move from a rudimentary understanding (perhaps comprising just a few of the available bits) to deeper, more valid and validated understanding of how your immediate ‘learning’ world works.  There are implications for memory, workload and processing; ‘tis nobler hopes you get the (bigger) picture.

You move from trying to make sense of the jumble of jigsaw pieces to seeing the completed puzzle.  As importantly, you sense what the current puzzle means for you and how you should respond.  And then the current puzzle changes (something that you may already have anticipated for the availability of patterns gives you the ability to anticipate rather than just react) and you respond in a timely and fluent way.

But all patterns have outliers – novel elements – and limits; they can be both specifically different and generally the same and they are specifically general.  The former represents the balance between novelty and similarity; with increasing experience, the balance tends more and more towards similarity.  The latter indicates that patterns are not necessarily transferable to other activities (compare Michael Jordan’s basketball and baseball careers) and may actually be counterproductive.

Imagine being transported to a place where your patterns are at odds with the world around you and little makes sense.  While things look sort of the same, they are very different in fundamental ways.  And then you find a situation in which your patterns apply and things just ‘click’:

Practice promotes patterns and patterns promote efficiency.  But patterns aren’t a panacea for they might contain the seeds of their own irrelevance – the little bits that don’t fit and that might be overlooked – or they might not be as applicable to other areas as you might think.  And the more you (effectively) apply your patterns in one area, the less applicable they will become to other, unrelated applications.

In experiential learning, you develop the chunks through practice but you can never rely on just applying the chunks.  Chunks will contain novel chinks in your ‘chunk armour’ and, when you take on new challenges, other forms of experiential learning, you’ll have to think outside the chunks you already possess. Think through what the relationships between patterns and performance might be.

How Green?

April 22nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It is not really a fact but, through extensive use, has become folklore.  And folklore can morph into apparent fact when it remains unquestioned:

“The grass is always greener on the other side.”

But aren’t proverbs like this built on a foundation of fact?  Doesn’t our everyday experience of our own lives reinforce the view that others, whether friends or strangers, are having – must be having – easier, more fulfilling, happier lives?  Wouldn’t we be like them if we could only get to the other side, the side that they are on?  Isn’t it always greener on the other side?

Research findings paint a different picture.  We have a tendency to underestimate the ‘problems’ on the other side; we estimate that those on the other side have many less negative experiences and emotions and slightly more positive experiences and emotions than ourselves.  It might be expected that we’d be more accurate when friends rather than peers are the subjects of our scrutiny but closeness doesn’t seem to exert much influence on our accuracy.  Others, all others, face fewer problems and have better lives because they live ‘where the grass is greener’.

In addition to the ‘greener’ effect, our estimation issues also reflect the ability of others to hide their ‘less green’ experiences and emotions.  Even though this is what we ourselves do, we appear unable to recognise when others erect similar shields.  And so we persist in believing that we struggle relative to others.  We answer ‘OK’ when asked how things are, even though things might be (much) less than OK, yet we accept ‘OK’ from others as an accurate summary of their situation.

There is a range of ways in which the ‘greener’ fallacy affects our learning journey and our efforts at behavioural change.  Think through what these might be.

Experiential learning has a substantial solo component and yet you are never alone, your experiences are rarely unique and your difficulties are seldom unshared.  Believing that things are ‘less green’ for you than they are for others is untrue.

It’s always as green on the other side!

What Is The Answer!

April 20th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Experiential learning and behavioural change are grounded in questions.  How do I do this?  Can I sustain this?  Why does that happen?  What is the answer?

However, what is the answer need not be a question; it might also be a statement that answers a question.  And the question has to do with attention.  It’s very important to pay attention to attention, especially as you only have a finite amount of ‘mental money’ with which to pay.  As well as you paying, attention also has an inbuilt cost.  As the world around you often presents more information than you can handle, attention excludes the unimportant and less-important stuff.

You can only identify the important, less-important and unimportant stuff through experience.  This is never a case of sorting stuff into static categories, as stuff moves from category to category (and back again) as a function of time and situation.  The standard question – are you paying attention? – is a very difficult one to answer validly.  You know when you do it (and you can find out when you’re not doing it), but you are doing it without (conscious) knowing.

The ‘where’ or spatial attention is driven by the relative locations of information and many people think ‘where’ is attention’s most important factor.  An interesting set of studies demonstrated the effect of hand orientation on attention; when objects appeared on the grasping side, they were responded to more quickly than when they appeared on the back side of the hand.  But this isn’t just a ‘where’ outcome; it seems to ‘tis nobler that it’s an indication of the overriding effect of ‘what’.

‘What’ is the answer.  Where follows what, where is directed by what.  ‘What’ is understanding; ‘what’ sorts the wheat from the chaff, ‘what’ knows where the wheat and the chaff are more likely to be found.  ‘Where’ is here, there and there; ‘what’ may be anywhere or everywhere.  Novices try to find ‘what’ by pursuing ‘where’; the benefits of experience allow you to use the sophisticated ‘what’ you’ve developed to identify, very efficiently, the ‘where’ at any point in time.

Anybody can direct their attention to a ‘where’ – it may not be the most appropriate ‘where’ but it is still some ‘where’.  Only those making the effort, sustaining their learning and effectively self-managing their behaviour will gradually but inevitably unearth the ‘what’ they seek and need.  A ‘where’ orientation accept what it is for what it appears:

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The message embedded in this post is not to accept what it is but to shift things around.  There is a world of difference between ‘what it is’ and ‘what is it’.  ‘What’ is the answer and ‘where’ is then found by ‘what’.  Is this the best way to pay attention?

Pushing The Sky Higher

April 18th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Apparently, it’s much better to get 81% on a test than it is to get 79%.  It is obviously ‘better’ but the point of this post is that it’s apparently much better!

People get sentenced to 200 hours of community service and not 204 hours.  Some might argue that there’s no real difference between 200 and 204.  Why would a sentence of 197 hours be perceived then as much less appropriate?.  Isn’t any number able to be monitored and communicated just as easily as any other?

A success rate of 40% in some endeavour might be considered excellent.  Why would a success rate of 38.4% be perceived as much worse than it actually is?  Why are people more motivated to increase this rate of 38.4% to 40% than they are to get from 34% to 38%, even though the latter is a greater improvement?  Imagine if you were achieving 41.7% – what would you do to protect this result over time?  Would you stop completely?

There is evidence that we assign greater importance to round numbers.  Further, we are more inclined to increase our efforts if we are just below a round number than if we are just above it.  Being just above a round number can trigger ‘protective’ behaviours that aim to preserve this achievement.

We often establish learning milestones that are round numbers and many are prepared to persevere in order to reach the milestone.  It’s nice to have neatness and order in your learning aims, although the world in which your learning is occurring is messy.  A round number is a neat number but it is not necessarily a meaningful number.  A milestone, round or otherwise, is not a destination; it’s merely another signpost along the way that indicates where you are and where you’ve come from.  And it implicitly emphasises the need to continue.

At every stage of your learning journey, it is important to consider:

“If I could reach higher,

Just for one moment touch the sky,

Know that I’ve tried my very best ……”


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Learning is not about reaching higher in order to, for one moment, touch the sky.

Learning is about constantly pushing the sky higher.

Be Careful, It’s Catching

April 6th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘Connect’ is generally a positive thing.  Being connected, in a range of ways, to your experiential learning is always to be preferred.  Connection implies involvement, involvement suggests engagement and engagement indicates sustained effort.

‘Compound’ can be both positive and not so positive.  Compound interest can be very good, while a compound fracture is best avoided (a simple fracture is also best avoided but, if you had to choose between the two, stick with simple).  ‘Compound’ can suggest ‘connect’ or ‘combine’, as in a chemical compound; it can also reflect an inability to ‘connect’ should you find yourself in a prison compound.  If you make a second ‘bad’ decision and make matters worse, you are described as compounding the problem.

‘Contagious’ is generally a negative thing, simply because we most commonly associate it with disease.  ‘Contagious’ does have a relationship with ‘connect’ because contagions do require contact.  Originally, ‘contagious’ has been derived from ‘touch closely’.

What ties ‘connect’, ‘compound’ and ‘contagious’ together in a learning and change sense?  Think decision making – if you feel ‘connected’ to another, you may ‘compound’ the errors of their decision making by continuing to make the same errors, as though poor decision making was ‘contagious’.  And that’s nothing to sneeze at.  Be careful, it’s catching.

In experimental studies, the ‘connections’ did not need to be very strong; in fact, it was more affiliation than connection.  Even when the relationship was anonymous and the connection tenuous at best, subjects continued the poor decision making of their counterpart.  Perhaps you don’t have to be touched closely to catch PDMD (poor decision making disease).

The ‘connect-compound-contagious’ link finally gives ‘tis nobler an opportunity to embed this video.  If you ‘connect’ with your child and ‘compound’ or ‘combine’ two sounds, the result is highly contagious!

How will you balance the ‘connect-compound-contagious’ relationship?


April 4th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

That’s not a spelling mistake, for this post is about being flex-able, the ability to be flexible (just to prove that ‘tis nobler knows the correct spelling).  And it’s also about control, something that you can either be in or out of.  There is a link between control and flexibility that is worth exploring.

If you believe you are in control of a situation, if you believe you have the ‘power’ to manage the situation, your behaviour is likely to be much more consistent with the demands of the situation.  Perceived control produces real consistency.

Conversely, if you do not believe you are in control of a situation, if you lack the ‘power’ to manage it, your behaviour is more likely to be inconsistent with external demands.  Being out of control creates gaps between what you do and what you need to do.

And this is where flexibility comes in.  When situations change, ‘powerful’ individuals adapt by changing their behaviour to suit the new circumstances.  Without this flexibility, less ‘powerful’ individuals apply the same recipe(s) across different situations; they are always out of step with the world around them.  Regardless of the detail, they tend to trot out the same old story:

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Control should not be confused with rigidity, for control can also allow you to be very different.  Control opens up new possibilities and is central to effective self management within and between situations.

Bend by being in control.  Be in control by bending.  The only constant is change and the only change is to shift from ‘out of’ to ‘in’ control.  And this is achieved through effortful practice.  If you are unable to bend, then ask yourself where the control can be found.  Is it with you or are you being controlled by the situation?

Weakly Woes

April 1st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Is something always better than nothing?

Is being halfhearted more desirable than not having your heart in it at all?  Does having something of a clue put you in a better position than being completely clueless?  While being strong might be an advantage, is being weak better than having no strength at all?   Is a half-truth any better than a lie?  Is damning with faint praise better than straight criticism?  Is being there better than being absent?  Isn’t a positive statement better than saying nothing?  Isn’t something always better than nothing?  At face value, many people would say that something is better than nothing; after all, nothing can be worse than, well, nothing.

Sometimes, though, something isn’t better than nothing, an outcome that might be described as weakly woes.  ‘tis nobler thinks you should do lots and lots of practice because that will make you better – while defensible, this often-trotted out argument can be seen as weak at the individual level for many reasons.

And what happens is that this weakness attracts the attention of each individual and it is a short step between attraction and dismissal.  A weak argument in support of a positive objective is rejected and the objective becomes less likely to be achieved.  Flimsy fuels failure.  Think of this in the same way as the relationship between babies and bathwater.  In the absence of externally-supplied but weak arguments, individuals may supply their own, stronger information.  Perhaps it’s just not possible to be weakly convincing!

It may be that you always need a song beneath the song, as Maria Taylor sings:

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A weak message can appear to send the right message and yet still produce the wrong reaction.  A weak message can be worse than silence.  Like songs, messages and motives require substance.  Without substance, they are nothing but words.  Even when you think that your messages and motives are self-evident, being shallow, in every sense, can backfire.

In your learning and change, it is always better to have a song beneath the song.